“Seinfeld” fans may recognize the name of Joe Davola as the “Crazy” recurring character from that classic 1989-98 NBC series. But his real-life namesake is actually a savvy TV veteran behind one of the more successful digital platforms today.
Co-owned by Comcast Universal, Verizon and Hearst, AwesomenessTV boasts channels on YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, go90, Facebook and other websites, and is responsible for such teen-oriented scripted shows as “Project MC2,” “Freakish” and “Foursome” and unscripted series like “IMO” and “Daily Report.” It’s also created “AwesomenessTV” for Nickelodeon and the feature film “You Get Me.”
Its content is wildly popular around the world, as evidenced by its subscribers in the hundreds of millions and views in the billions.
Davola founded the company with his producing partner Brian Robbins (“One Tree Hill,” “Smallville”) in 2012 as a sort of dream project one embarks on later in one’s career.
(We looked at it) just like as a creative thing not knowing what it was going to be …,” Davola, 62, explains. “I wasn’t looking at this as a moneymaking venture. I was looking at this as the next step of something I wanted to do. I was going to go off and direct and produce. I was going to take this on. … It was like, ‘This is my time to take all the things I’ve wanted through my career and re-establish it and start all over again.
“It was really exciting because I was working with young people,” continues Davola, who has worked in production at MTV and Fox. “I’ve always been working in the youth market. All the places I’ve worked at really dealt with teens or 18-24 year-olds, so this wasn’t something that was unnatural for me to do.”
It didn’t take long for the brand to catch on. A year after it launched, AwesomenessTV and its parent company Awesomeness were sold to Dreamworks and Verizon for more than $100 million, retaining Robbins (who has since left the company) and Davola as consultants.
“We keep on moving,” Davola says. “We’re probably going to expand all our businesses, making more and more stuff that’s going to go on more digital outlets and we’re going to make more movies. You know, we have a very hearty appetite, so we have movies in production right now, we have TV series in production that are going on to different digital platforms. And then we’re going to increase the types of programming that we do on the Awesomeness network also. …”
“I always say, when a shark stops in the water it dies,” he continues. “So we’ve just got to keep on going. So we have a huge appetite and we keep on pushing ahead.”
As for his “Seinfeld” connection, that came out of his friendship with series creator Larry David. Davola is amused by the notoreity it’s gotten him and grateful for the association.
“I was glad I did it,” he says. “I was glad I said yes to have them use my name. I knew what the character was. You know, it’s just like a cool, little thing. We’re in the entertainment business. You’d better have fun. … And this is a fun thing. It was one of the greatest sitcoms ever made, so I was glad to be associated with it.”